November 9, 2014

Review of new Grayl Quest cup

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What if you could filter water in 15 seconds or less by simply pressing down? What if that motion also purified your water so it was delicious enough to drink?

Water’s a big deal when you’re traveling. In a matter of a few gulps, you could jeopardize your health. That’s why purifying water on the road is so important. But shaking, pumping, waiting, squeezing to purify your water can take a while.

Especially when you’re so thirsty even mud-water looks yummy.

What’s why Grayl cup was invented. It purifies water like working a French press. Push down. Clean water rises up in the inner cup. What’s even better? A clear, plastic cup that purifies your water, switches filters easily, and works like a mug so you can drink your freshly-pressed clean water.

Enter the new Grayl Quest cup.

Disclaimer: the nice folks at Grayl were generous enough to send me their newly launched Grayl Quest cup with some filters to test out.

grayl quest

What’s different in the new Quest cup?

Unlike it’s predecessor — the Legend — the Quest comes with a clear outside cup. So now you can fill up the outer cup with water and easily see the water line. The Legend is a hybrid design of stainless steel inner cup with a hard-plastic outer cup.

Plus, the Legend was all stainless steel and almost 4.5 ounces heavier than Quest. Fill that stainless steel up with water, and suddenly your cup adds some substantial weight to your bag.

With the Quest, that heavy-duty plastic takes weight off where it matters.

Three types of filters

Not only did Grayl add another cup to their line, but they also added another filter. Now you have three filters to choose from:

Each one is designed for different uses.

Tap filter

The tap filter is designed for urban uses. It removes many chemicals and heavy metals that may affect flavor, odor and health. Filters water in 7 seconds. Best used for traveling in developed countries where the water doesn’t taste as lovely as bottled.

Trail filter

Hitting the back woods? Take this filter with. It’s crafted to fight the protozoan cysts and waterborne bacteria found in mountain streams. It removed 99.99% of bacteria like salmonella. Filters water in 15 seconds.

Travel filter

Specially suited for the uncertainty found in traveling the world. It removed 99.99% of viruses like Hepatitis A, bacteria and protozoan cysts like salmonella and Giardia. And the filter is derived from coconut husks to filter and absorb odors and flavors from the water. Filters water in 30 seconds. Call it your best friend in times of need.

What I like about Grayl Quest

What I don’t like about Grayl Quest

The time to come clean.

There’s nothing big I don’t like about Grayl Quest.

Nothing that would prevent me from buying Grayl. Nothing that makes me hesitate. Even the prices and expected life (about 3 months) for the filters seem reasonable. In fact, I wish I had this cup while backpacking through Europe. It would have saved me hundreds of dollars on bottled water and filled up dozens of Nalgenes.

I can’t wait to take it on my next trip — whether it’s to a city, mountain, or misty lands far beyond. Well done, Grayl.

Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she talks about why thinking is a dying sport, gives you new awesome books to read, and how pursuing perfection damages you.

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Category: Travel Gear

October 5, 2014

How to pick a good traveling jacket and jacket review on FlyLow Vixen

2014-08-30 13.59.05Next to shoes, choosing the right jacket for a trip is my hardest decision. It’s more difficult when you’re spanning several cities, leap-frogging continents, or criss-crossing the equator in both directions.

How can you choose a jacket lightweight enough for a cool fall night but warm enough for a snowy trek through the city? And let’s not forget the waterproofing aspect if you get caught in a Parisian rainstorm.

How can you pick the perfect jacket for all conditions? It boils down to three items:

  1. Waterproof/rain proofing
  2. Fabric
  3. Flexibility for changing conditions (venting)

1) Waterproofing or rain proofing

Nothing is worse than getting caught unexpectedly in a cold rainstorm. Usually, rain jackets are super lightweight and designed only as the outer shell.

But you can find a jacket that is waterproof and designed as a warmth-holding jacket. Where?

In the ski gear section. Many of these jackets are designed to be wind-resistant and waterproof to keep up with ever-changing elements on the mountains.

What to look for:

- Waterproof breathable material

- Durable Water Repellant (DWR)

- YKK waterproof zippers or “fully seam sealed” (means the zipper teeth are coated to prevent water from leaking through)

- A large hood to shield your head

2) Fabric

I’ve found my favorite jackets have a bit of stretch to them. They move with my body. They adapt to my circumstances. They like movement. If this is you, check the label for Lycra in your jacket.

If you want warmth, check the jacket description for the branded elements to hold in body heat, like:

- North Face: ThermoBall

- FlyLow: Intuitive

- Helly Hanson: PrimaLoft

These are simply different types of high performance fabric, designed to do the same thing: hold in heat in damp conditions.

Also, check out how many layers of fabric the jacket has. Some jackets have two layers. Some have three. The more layers, the warmer the jacket. Think back to that flimsy rain jacket you throw on over your blazer. It’s simply one layer of fabric designed to repel rain.

I like a jacket with three layers. It gives the right amount of warmth but still stays lightweight enough that I can cramp it into a tiny spot in my backpack.

3) Flexibility to changing conditions

Adaptability is very important while traveling — not just for your mental attitude, but also for your gear. Due to the demands of hauling your stuff and traveling like a turtle with your house on your back, you need to find clothing that is heavy multi-taskers. Your jacket should be no different.

So what are you looking for to gauge this type of flexibility?

1) Arm venting: so you can cool off and circulate air without ditching your jacket; perfect in cold wind but hot sun on your face.

2) Breathable material: to wick sweat away and cool you during long hikes or dashes for the subway; in the end, this also keeps you more comfortable so you’re not stewing in your sweat.

3) Plenty of interior pockets: stump the pickpockets and keep your valuables in interior zipped pockets next to your body. As a girl, I love a jacket with lots of pockets since that means I don’t always have to carry a purse.

4) Media player compatible: okay, this is a minor item on the list. But it could be a lifesaver when you need a moment to yourself and your personal space is limited to that jacket.

5) Color: a florescent jacket will make you stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps black is the standard classy choice, but everyone has a black jacket in their closet. Pick a color that makes you feel happy but doesn’t target you as a potential victim.

So what does my favorite traveling jacket look like?

Review on FlyLow Vixen jacket

fly low vixenThis is the jacket I’ve been traveling with for the past six months.

It weathered a downpour in Boston while I watched the Red Sox and steel beams overhead dripped cold rain relentlessly on my legs. It has shielded my head from chilly winds off Seward, Alaska. It soldiered through an early fall snowstorm. I wish I had brought it with to Chicago during a nippy weekend.

I’m in love with it.

What do I like?

- Oversize hood: designed to fit over a snowboarding helmet, this hood is extra large. It prevents any wind from nipping down my neck, overhangs my eyes to guard against driving rain, and I can wear a hat with it.

- The color: a pretty berry color, this jacket was my first non-black one. It brings a pop of color to my cheeks in pictures. And it makes me happy just to see the color. Also, it doesn’t get lost in my bag, blending in with the bag’s dark depths.

- Lightweight but warm: The fabric blocks wind and water, but keeps my body heat in. I have a knack for getting cold in any weather condition. This jacket fights the cold. But it isn’t bulky or heavy-feeling on my body.

- Waterproof: I’m a girl who gets caught in rainstorms in every country. So I love that the seams are fully taped, the fabric is water-repellant, and no annoying little cold raindrops can find my warm center.

- Plenty of pockets: carry it on your body is my motto. So when I can slip my wallet, keys, phone and a book into my jacket pockets and just go, that’s heaven to me. With this jacket, I can do that — and have empty pockets to pick up things along the way.

- Durability: six months in, and the jacket still looks brand new despite being used a pillow multiple times, stuffed into my bag, shoved under plane seats, and exposed to Boston and Alaska’s notorious nasty weather.

What I don’t like:

- The price ($300): it’s a hefty cost for just a jacket. But if you think about it as a jacket that will last for years and look good doing it, it’s worth it. Like my husband says, “you get what you pay for.”

Laura blogs at Waiting to Be Read where she dishes about awesome books to read, what actors work best as main characters, and why thinking is a dying sport.

 

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Category: Travel Gear

August 3, 2014

What’s the best water purifier for traveling?

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Water is a huge deal when you’re traveling. Drinking contaminated water is the quickest way to sabotage your health. But water quality can vary greatly outside the United States, especially in developing countries.

You could stick exclusively to bottled water. But your budget (and the environment) would hate you.

But don’t worry — there’s a better way. You can purify the available water. This method eliminates the protozoa and bacteria so the water is safe to drink.

Perhaps you’ve done some research on water sanitizers. In your research, two words have popped up: purifier and filter. They seem to be used interchangeably. And they appear to both clean your water.

But they’re for two different functions and one is better for traveling than the other.

Difference between purifier and filters

Filters attack the visible gunk in your water. They transform muddy water to clear, pretty water.

Filters are commonly used when camping or hiking. Typically mountain streams are clean of the bacteria found in overpopulated areas. Instead, this water is laden with twigs, mud, and other debris. The filter separates all that out of your water.

Whereas, the purifier works on a microscopic level to cleanse your water of nasty bacteria. Water-related illnesses are linked to 1 of 3 types of pathogens (disease-carrying pests). Purifiers rid your water of all 3 pathogens.

Typically while traveling, you’re not worried about twigs in your drinking water. Instead, you’re worried about the bacteria that will make you sick. That’s why purifiers are best for international travel, so your water can be sterile and safe to drink.

Some devices offer an integrated filter and purification system. However, most of the devices on this list are strictly for water purification.

How to purify your water

You have three options to purify your water:

  1. Iodine/chemicals
  2. UV light
  3. Boiling
  4. High tech filters

Top three water purifiers for travel

grayl

Grayl

A water purifier that works like a french press and comes in its own handsome bottle. You simply fill up the bottle with water, press, and clean water fills up in the inner reservoir. It filters 16oz of water in 15 seconds. It’s G3 filter captures 99.999% of bacteria and protozoan cysts like Giardia and viruses like Hepatis A.

If that wasn’t enough, it’s stainless steel body is sleek and handsome. And, my favorite part: it doesn’t have a straw, but rather a snap lid. Perfect for the traveler who aims for minimalism and one-device-for-all.

Pros: It purifies in 15 seconds. The container is attractive and looks more like a to-go coffee mug than high tech water purifier.

Cons: It’s designed for one person’s use. So to fill up a Playpus or Nalgene for later, you’ll have to clean another bottle of water and wait 15 seconds.

Cost: Total cost, including filter: $70

Replacement purifier: $40

Lifespan of purifier: 150 L

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Lifesaver Bottle

This is the only purifier and filtration combo device on this list. Resembling a biker’s water bottle, this device removes all bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi and other microbiological waterborne pathogens without using any chemicals. And it doesn’t use any batteries, power or UV light. So it’s ideal for going totally off the grid.

Simply fill up the bottle with whatever water is available, swiftly pump two or three times, and drink clean water. When the cartridge is depleted, the bottle shuts down. All parts, including cartridges, carbon filters, and sponge pre-filter, can be replaced.

Perfect for the countries where you can’t count on clear water and need heavy-duty water purification, without relying on power.

Pros: I like the purifier and filtration combo. And that the water is clean quickly, without relying upon outside power or technology that could break down.

Cons: The initial cost is the priciest purifier on the list. Plus, parts and filters are expensive to replace.

Cost: Total cost: $170

Replacement parts: $100 per cartridge, $8 per carbon filter, $6 per pre-filter

Lifespan of bottle: 6,000 L

steripen

SteriPen Ultra

UV light kills 99.99% of waterborne bacteria in 16oz of water in 48 seconds. You simply put the upside-down pen into the water and stir the water to treat. You can use this UV light pen in any water container (like Nalgene bottles and store-bought bottles). The Water Quality Association awarded SteriPen with a Gold Seal, certifying its effectiveness.

Lightweight and slender, this little guy is a perfect match for the lightweight traveler.

No need for batteries as the SteriPen comes with a USB cable and you can easily charge it. You can even hook it up to a solar charger. You get about 40 treatments per charge.

Pros: The compact size and that you can purify any bottle of water in less than a minute. The geek in me loves the idea of the UV light killing bacteria. I also like that you can charge this device almost anywhere thanks to the USB charger.

Cons: Your water has to be clean (i.e. no floaties or sediment) to start with. According to some reviewers online, your water container has to be very, very clean. Beware, some Amazon reviewers reported faulty LED screens, the device has the tendency to turn on in your backpack and drain its battery.

Cost: Total cost: $99.95

Lifespan of UV light: 8,000 L

Which one would I pick?

Before this article, I would have chosen the SteriPen based on the compact design and ability to sterilize any bottle of water.

But now, it’s a toss up between the Grayl and the Lifesaver. I like to camp, and the purifier and filtration combo is very attractive because of that. Combined with the fact that the Lifesaver doesn’t rely on any outside power and seems perfect for any traveling situation.

However, the Grayl would be my choice for a traveling-only purifier. You can’t beat sterile water in 15 seconds and the low initial cost price.

But, keep in mind, I have not tried any of these devices and real life may alter my decision.

Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, is forever making “best of” lists, and writes three-second book reviews with actors cast as the book’s main characters.

Laura blogs at www.lauralopuch.com where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, makes tons of lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters. – See more at: http://www.vagablogging.net/how-to-combat-jet-lag-and-win.html#sthash.8HGThmRr.dpuf

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Category: Travel Gear

July 6, 2014

Best Five Fitness Trackers for Travel

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Travel with its long flights and sitting in transport can wreck havoc on your health. But how can you avoid both while traveling?

The answer is simple: give yourself a challenge. The challenge is in the form of a fitness tracker. As Peter Drucker, an Austrian-born American management consultant, says, “What gets measured, gets managed.”

Fitness trackers aren’t just one-function pedometers anymore. Most track your steps, measure the distance you’ve walked, and time your sleep. A few even capture heart rate, perspiration, body motion, and types of sleep, including how long you spend in REM. When you use a fitness tracker in conjunction with a sleep app, you can kick jet lag.

When I’m traveling, I walk more than I do at home. A fitness tracker not only can measure the quality of my sleep, but also the distance my feet have traveled or how much water I’m consuming — two valuable measurements after recycled air and cramped quarters on flights.

So I rounded up the available fitness trackers and picked the top five based upon factors that are important while traveling:

misfit

1. Misfit Shine

Waterproof, minimalist design and has a watch battery rumored to last four months. It has the awesome ability to discern between swimming, walking, running, and cycling. Thanks to its jewelry-like design, you can wear this tracker in a variety of ways; like as a necklace, a watch, clipped to your pants. An interesting sidenote for you startup business fans, Misfit Shine was a successfully funded Indiegogo project. The tracker works in conjunction with an app, available on Android and iTunes.

Downside: you will need a smartphone to get info off the tracker. It doesn’t have a display on it.

Price: $102

jawbone

2. Jawbone UP24

Sleek wrist band that has a vibrating reminder to urge you to move if you’ve been idle for too long — perfect for a quick walk during a long flight or train ride. Also, the alarm will wake you during a lighter sleep period so you wake easier and quicker. This feature is perfect for adjusting to new time zones. The design looks more like a wrist band than a tracker busily measuring your activity. It claims to have up to 7 days of battery life.

Downside: the unusual design snags on your clothes and you need a smartphone with the app to check your info since it has no display.

Price: $150

fit bit flex

3. Fitbit Flex

A slender, comfortable wrist band holds the small Fitbit tracker. Tap on the tracker and lights show your progress to your daily 10,000 step (or any other step!) goal. The tracker works in conjunction with a smartphone app (available on Android and iTunes) which tracks your sleep, water intake, daily mileage walked, total steps, exercise with GPS monitoring, calorie intake. It even has a vibrating alarm to wake you. This is the tracker I use and I can’t wait to try it out on my next trip. My battery life is roughly one week between charges.

Downside: it doesn’t wake you during a lighter sleep period like Jawbone does.

Price: $100

basis

4. Basis

The new kid on the block, this fitness tracker does it all for a great price. It looks like a watch, but thanks to little sensors under the face, it tracks your heart rate patterns, motion, calorie expenditure by activity, perspiration and skin temperature, and sleep cycles including REM. It’s akin to having a doctor strapped to your wrist. This tracker would be very valuable if you are traveling to hotter climates where you run the risk of dehydration and you’re on the move. Battery life is claimed to be up to 4 days. And the strap is carbon steel.

Upside: the larger display shows you info at a glance, no need to pull out the smartphone to check it.

Price: $200

garmin

5. Garmin Vivofit

Best part is you don’t have to charge it for a year. Reviews by the users back up that stat. When it needs new batteries, they are  common batteries found at any store. This tracker does everything else all the other trackers listed do. But it also pairs with a heart rate strap. And the display provides more information like time, steps, distance, calories.

Price: $130

Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, is forever making “best of” lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters.

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Category: Travel Gear

June 3, 2014

The Passport Protector – review and interview with its founder

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Patrick was eating at a Olive Garden in Buffalo, New York when he should have been enjoying fresh pizza at a sun-baked cafe in Rome.

A few days earlier on Friday in Charlotte, he had been leaving on a two week trip with his girlfriend to Europe. He couldn’t wait to see Cinque Terre’s famed breathtaking cliffs and explore Paris’ countless monuments. This moment had been six months in the planning. Deep inside him, the wanderlust was pounding its fists in excitement.

But at the airport, he got an unwelcome surprise. His passport was denied for wear and tear. The airport wouldn’t allow him on his flight. They could be fined and they weren’t going to let that happen.

He was shocked. But there was no way around it. Patrick and his girlfriend watched their plane take off without them. And with it went visions of seeing Arc de Triumph and Eiffel Tower.

To salvage the remnants of their trip, they faced several challenges. First, they had to find a regional passport agency to order a new, rush passport. New Orleans and Buffalo were the only two that had availability on the next business day — Monday.

They picked Buffalo. And they sliced off segments of their itinerary, cancelling planned stops in Nice and Brussels.

Four days and $2500 to cover fees, cancellation notices, and wasted train tickets later, he was finally on the plane to Europe. But he couldn’t stop thinking about how to prevent this nightmare from happening again.

He needed a passport protector. Something hardcore, waterproof and sturdy. He needed something stronger than what a plastic baggy or leather protector could give. But he couldn’t find anything like that.

He decided to make his own. He wanted it to be “a hardcore case to withstand adventure travel but also having a innovative modern design that… looks smart enough for a business traveler.”

When he was in high school, the travel bug infected him. For him, travel isn’t just something you do — it’s a way to open your thinking. He believes that “travel creates a buffer or free space for people to interact and grow where they wouldn’t otherwise in their own comfort zone.”

While studying abroad in southern France, he fell in love with how life-changing travel can be. “Travel has opened my mind to so many ideas and my own views on life,” Patrick says. “In the States, we measure success based on our bank account; elsewhere I saw it measured in relationships. Open-mindedness, personal growth, and adventure don’t happen in a vacuum; they happen through experience.” That’s why a portion of proceeds from Passport Protector sales are donated to fund study abroad scholarships. One day he hopes to give away two scholarships a year.

Review on the Passport Protector

passport protector

It claims to be small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, impact and water-resistant, and metal-free so you can pass through certain security checkpoints. The final version will be RFID blocking for extra protection.

Never one to back down from a good challenge, I tested this little guy and here’s what I found:

Water-resistant: when I ran water over it, my documents stayed dry. When I submerged it, it floated. Good news in the event that your boat capsizes, your documents won’t sink to the ocean’s bottom. But the bad news is when I opened it up, my IDs were wet and stuck together.

Size compatibility: Fits easily into man-pants pockets, large inner pockets in jackets and my Timbuk2 bag pockets. It doesn’t really fit into girl-pants’ pockets, but then neither does anything larger than lip gloss and a credit card.

Impact resistant: I held back a little on this test for fear of possibly totally damaging the prototype (I do have to return it!). But I discovered the protector will survive if you accidentally sat on it, or sleep on your bag in an airport. The hard plastic bends slightly, but doesn’t break. It also doesn’t seem to scratch easily.

passport protector 2

What I liked:

- The smooth, hard feel of the plastic case. It feels sturdy. It feels like it can handle what I dish out.

- It’s wide enough to fit my passport (and my husband’s), some money and credit cards. Possibly, it could fit an ID if you did some creative arranging.

- Water resistant: I’m the person who’s forever spilling coffee or beer on herself. My gear needs to be able to withstand an unexpected soaking.

What I disliked:

- The rubber top on my prototype was a little hard to finagle. The rubber tab to keep the top in place wouldn’t stay in the hole. But that’s just a preliminary issue. Patrick says the final lid will close tighter on the finished model.

- Not completely waterproof. Again, this seems to be a prototype quirk. I’m told the final version will have a more rigid rubber top. Hopefully that means it’ll be completely waterproof as well.

- It doesn’t fit my phone. My iPhone is just a smidgeon too wide to fit into the case.

Where to get it:

You can get one during Passport Protector’s crowdfunding campaign that ends June 9th. Here’s the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-passport-protector

If you miss that, sign up at their website for notifications when the final version is ready.

Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, is forever making “best of” lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters.

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Category: Travel Gear

May 11, 2014

How to combat jet lag and win

plane tailsIt’s the worst part of traveling: being so tired that you miss the amazing sights you traveled miles to see. Instead, you spend your first few days of your trip, curled up in your bed, sound asleep. Have you ever landed in the new country only to feel bone-tired, pounding headache, and an overwhelming apathy?

Welcome to jet lag. This is your body complaining about crossing too many time zones. Jet lag naturally takes about three to four days to overcome. Thankfully, there are a couple proven ways to lessen jet lag to avoid sleeping away your trip.

Since there are varied approaches to combating jet lag, I’ve broken this post down into three main categories: jet lag apps, sleep aids, and natural methods.

Jet lag apps

Focused on light exposure, these apps help you maximize your exposure to sunlight. The amount and quality of sunlight readjusts your circadian cycles or your biological clock.

Entrain

The newest jet lag app. Based on the proven idea of light exposure to help re-adjust sleep schedules, this app was invented by the scientists at the University of Michigan. The app gives you a schedule to follow to maximize the brightest and darkest times of the day so you adjust to your new time zone better. Sounds like they’re already working on tweaks, like if men are differently affected than women.

Cost: right now the app is free, so the scientists can test it.

JetLag Genie

One of the more popular jet lag apps. This also tracks your sleep schedule and exposure to sunlight. From what I can tell, it also spits out a customized daily schedule for when to wake, seek bright light, and exercise so you adjust faster.

Cost: $2.99 on Apple.

Sleep aids

Trouble sleeping at the right time? Perhaps your body needs a little nudge to get the hint.

White noise machine

Drown out ambient noises and create a peaceful environment while you sleep. If you plan ahead, you can train before the trip to fall asleep with a white noise machine on. Once you get used to it, you’d be surprised how quickly sleep comes when you switch the machine on. I’ve heard using a white noise machine while traveling with children and babies works especially well for helping them sleep.

Cost: $40-150. I like Marsona Travel Sound Conditioner TSC-330 due to its lightweight, slender design, and voltage that’s suitable for any country.

Melatonin

A hormone that helps alter your circadian cycles, this supplement will help you adapt to a new timezone quickly. It tricks your body into thinking its bedtime. Doctors recommend taking a higher dose if you’re heading into the future (or east), and a very low dose if you’re heading west. It’s recommended to take this two hours before bedtime and don’t go take too much or you’ll wake up foggy the next morning.

Cost: $7-20.

Ambien

America’s favorite nighttime sleep-aid that will help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Be forewarned, it doesn’t help you combat jet lag. It only helps you sleep when you should. This is not my preferred option since I don’t like the morning-after drug fogginess. But it could help you sleep on the long flight to your destination and calm the jittery excitement. You might need a doctor’s prescription to get it.

Cost: $24-40

Natural methods

Not a big fan of drugs or using technology on the road? Don’t worry, there’s a few natural ways to combat jet lag.

Hydrate

A common cause of jet lag is dehydration. Start drinking water before your flight, during your flight and afterwards. Experts recommend drinking 1 liter of water for every hour you’re up in the air. Yes, you’ll probably be up and down for the bathroom a lot, but moving around on long flights has another benefit: avoiding blood clots. So you tackle two birds with one stone with this option.

Cost: refillable water bottle (about $20) and water fountains (free).

Exercise

Rumored to be the best way to combat jet lag. Exercise helps reset your body’s circadian clock. If you exercise the morning after arrival, your body will naturally and quickly adjust to the new time. Don’t just exercise during your trip — also exercise before your trip to get the biggest benefit.

Cost: running shoes ($30-80). If you’re not a runner, do exercises using your body’s weight like yoga or calisthenics, or stay in a hotel with gym access.

Essential sleep oils

Occasionally sleep won’t come because your thoughts are racing. If you’re not a fan of Ambien or other drugs, try essential sleep oils. Essential sleep oils help calm your mind for sleep. You apply a few drops of oil on your wrists and soles of your feet. On the road, I’ve used an essential oil blend with the white noise machine for deep sleep in new beds. Also awesome is the bottle is usually only 15 mL or so — well below the carry-on liquid limit.

Cost: $10-40 a bottle. I really like Doterra Serenity Calming blend.

Laura blogs at www.lauralopuch.com where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, makes tons of lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters.

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Category: Travel Gear

April 6, 2014

Review: Osprey Kestrel 48 backpack and how to choose a great backpack

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A good backpack can make or break a trip. Drenching rain, language barriers, delayed flights — you can weather all with humor and go-get-’em attitude.

But a good backpack is the foundation upon which your trip rests. It holds your entire life in one place. It protects it. Sometimes you wear it so often it feels like another appendage.

That’s why it’s important to take some time before your trip to figure out what kind of new appendage — or backpack — works for you. Next to figuring out which book to take with me, this decision was the most important on my two-week trip to Europe.

Review on Osprey Kestrel 48 backpack

osprey frontAfter lots of research, I decided on Osprey Packs Kestrel 48 backpack for three reasons:

But the true test came after wearing my pack for two solid weeks. Included in that time were some very long midnight wanderings in suburban Rome searching for our hotel, running through train stations and for vaporettos, and getting shoved under train seats.

What I liked and disliked about the Osprey Kestrel

Liked:

Disliked:

What to look for when choosing a backpack

1. Functionality

How are you planning to use your pack? Will you be hiking or walking a lot? Do you need it to be water-repellant?

If you’ll be walking with it a lot, pick one with an interior frame and hip belt to redistribute the weight off your shoulders. Water-resistance is a good thing to consider, so check for a rain cover. You can’t always control the weather, but it’s nice to know your stuff won’t get soaked.

2. Durability

You want a pack that wears its age and travels well. You don’t want to deal with broken zippers or rips on the road.

Look for fabric at least 400 denier nylon packcloth with a urethane coating (aka water-repellant). Test the zippers. Do some Google searches on “broken zipper + pack name” to see how it stands up.

A good place to check out long-term durability is reading Amazon’s reviews on the pack; you get a wide smattering of opinions to help your decision.

3. Access into the bag

Do you want to access the bag just from the top (top-loading pack)? Or from the top and bottom (called the sleeping bag compartment)? Exterior pockets or no pockets?

These are things to consider if you want to lock your bag. The more access points into your bag equals more locks you need.

4. Carrying Capacity

Ah, the clincher. Getting a pack that’s too big will restrict your ability to carry it on the plane. Getting a pack too small will curtail your purchasing abilities.

It’s a really good idea to check out the bags in person. After all, this is gear that interacts with your body. Like shoes, how it feels on you will impact how you feel about the trip.

Play around with the packs. Try them on. Figure out how it feels on your back and do a few spins to check your bull in a china shop prowess. The empty pack should feel light and not too bulky on your back.

For me, the perfect capacity size was 48: still small enough for carry on, but large enough for clothes and extras picked up along the way.

5. Backpack size

Backpacks come in three sizes: small, medium and large. The sizes are determined by your torso length, not your height.

Here’s a general guide to figuring out the pack size from your torso length:

Men’s and Women’s
Pack Size Torso Length
Extra small Up to 15½”
Small 16″ to 17½”
Medium/Regular 18″ to 19½”
Large/Tall 20″+

Difference between men and women packs:

Generally, compared to men’s packs, women’s packs are:

But really, it comes down to how the pack feels on you. Even though I’m a woman, I picked a men’s pack based on how it fit me and what it looked like. Oh — and that it had good pockets.

Read more by Laura at Waiting To Be Read.

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Category: Backpacking, Travel Gear

September 10, 2013

Getting lost? There’s an app for that!

Get lost

There’s something to be said for getting lost. 

I rather like it, actually. Taking off with no destination, exploring a city by braille, and the serendipity that inevitably arises as a result are intoxicating. There are days in which the last thing I want is a map, or directions, or to “get there” in the most expeditious manner.

And then… there are the other days. The days when I’m lost and it’s maybe not comfortable, or fun, or safe. There’s that moment when you look around and think, “Well this is no good…” and you realize you’re in the wrong neighbourhood, it’s almost dark and you have no idea where you are.

My husband pointed me towards an article about new app called Kovert this week that is a savvy solution in that moment. It’s a GPS for your phone that gives directions via vibration in your pocket rather than voice or visual. One blast for port, two for starboard; that kind of thing. So now, you’re walking down the street, feeling your directions instead of with your nose in your phone display. Your mind and your eyes are free to take in your surroundings. You’re not painting a target on your ass with the double whammy of an expensive piece of equipment and the announcement that you’ve got no idea where you are since you’re clearly following it down the street.

I like this idea from two perspectives: 1. increasing safety and decreasing the presence of obvious high-theft items. 2. increasing presence in a place instead of face time with a device.

What are your thoughts? Any travel apps that enhance your experience?

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Category: Travel Gear, Travel Tech

December 27, 2012

Suffer from food allergies, there’s an app for that

Engineers at UCLA are working on converting an iPhone into a small laboratory. Weighting less than 2 ounces, the iTube attaches to your phone and analyzes a food sample in about 20 minutes using a colorimetric assay test. The user grinds up a small sample of food with hot water and places it in the tube along with an extraction solvent. After several other testing liquids are added; the phone then captures an image of the sample using its built-in camera and a program app optically analyzes the image for allergen particles down to parts per million. It doesn’t just confirm the presence or absence of peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, eggs or gluten; it also tells the amount within the sample.

image courtesy of: UCLA Newsroom

As someone who suffers from severe food allergies; the possibility of such a gadget intrigues me. However I am still skeptical. When in doubt about the specific ingredients of a food, I simply opt not to eat it. True, this practice limits my culinary variety but I figure I can find thrills other ways.

 

How about you? If you suffer from food allergies would you consider the iTube a useful gadget for home or travel use?

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Category: Food and Drink, General, On The Road, Travel Gear, Travel Health, Travel Tech

July 23, 2012

How Tim Ferriss and Silicon Valley techies hack their trips

Packing light.

Packing light. Photo: Amina Elahi / Flickr

Business travelers, also known as “road warriors,” are some of the most experienced trip hackers around. Although here at Vagabonding we espouse slower wandering, these hard-core types have streamlined the process to a science. Their advice appeared in this New York Times article: How the tough get going: Silicon Valley travel tips. Prominently featured in the article is Tim Ferriss, known as the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and the “The 4-Hour Body.”

Naturally, there are many websites and apps that get mentioned. It’s interesting to see these guys apply a hacker ethic of “lighter, faster, more efficient” to their journeys.

My favorite tip was how to get a new charger and adapter fast if you lose yours. Ask your hotel to see their “lost and found” box. If you’re staying at a place that gets a lot of businesspeople, a lot of those things get accidentally left behind.

The CLEARcard was new to me. This enables cardholders to pass through airport security faster. While it’s a useful tool, a quick check of their website reveals that the card can only be used in four airports. If the card were more widely accepted, it would be more handy.

I did research, and found Global Entry. This is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that can help members speed through security. Global Entry has been deployed in many major American airports, making it far more convenient than CLEARcard.

Some of the advice was risky though, like packing a starter pistol and declaring the firearm to TSA, as a way of making sure airport staff don’t lose your bag. With security being a big concern these days, this is not something I would recommend to anyone.

How do you pack light for your trips? Any tips for speeding up the check-in and boarding process? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Category: Air Travel, Lifestyle Design, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Gear, Travel Tech
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